Macro with a dome port

Underwater macro photography through a dome port


On my recent trip to dive Milford Sound, New Zealand and Adelaide, Australia I wanted to travel light. So in addition to cameras and lenses, I only brought my underwater camera housing, two underwater strobes and my compact dome port.


Even though it was mainly a hiking and wildlife trip with my wife, we did plan for a few dives, mainly to find the famous leafy sea dragon.


red crab in adelaide

Red crab, Edithburgh Jetty, Adelaide. D300 + Nikon 60mm lens, dome port. F20, 1/80th


I did want to take some underwater macro photos of Adelaide, so I decided to use my Nikon 60mm lens behind my dome port.


I was very pleased with the results. Also I lost 25% magnification that a flat port gives you due to the refractive index of water, I never missed the magnification. The colors of my underwater photos and sharpness were great. I also found the combination worked better for photographing fish since I could get closer to them. And finally, using a dome port is theoretically supposed to result in less chromatic aberration.


Next time you want to photograph fish and large nudibranchs, give your macro lens a try behind a dome port! 


Underwater macro photographs, behind a dome port

All photos are with the Nikon 60mm lens, Sea & Sea compact dome port

closeup of a featherduster worm

Featherduster worm closeup. F18, 1/80th


red nudibranch macro underwater photo

Nudibranch, F20, 1/250th


diver behind featheduster

Diver behind a featherduster worm. F9, 1/160th


underwater fish photography behind a dome port

Fish swimming past colorful jetty pilings. F8, 1/125th




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I have just spent a small

I have just spent a small fortune on some U/W photography gear - so am now skint, I was wondering if normal macro lenses would be fine to screw onto my housing U/W and use..! They're a lot cheaper and can be stacked.. or is there some magical reason this can't be done..?

Minimum Distance? Thank you

Minimum Distance?

Thank you for sharing your experience and photos.

Is there a minimum distance between front lense and dome glas you can recommend?


not really, it depends on the

not really, it depends on the dome and the lens, sorry!

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

Why wouldn't one use a dome

Why wouldn't one use a dome port with a 60mm macro?

Sorry if it's a naive question. Is the conventional wisdom this shouldn't be done due to edge distortion? Can edge distortion actually help (bokeh)?

Anyway, empowering to know that I can try the dome port with the 60, and thanks for the informative article!!

I haven't noticed any edge

I haven't noticed any edge distortion when shooting through the dome - Scott

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

A flat port, like your dive

A flat port, like your dive mask, magnifies underwater objects by about 30% due to the different refractive index of water and air on either side of the port glass. When your goal is to photograph small subjects then that is beneficial and the reason most people use a flat port for macro. If you wish to photograph slightly larger objects and find you need to stay too far away in order to make them fit in your frame than a dome port may give you a bit more field of view.

There's a one major

There's a one major disadvantage in using macro behind dome port - you can scratch it very easy. That was what I've done :(

Namgul - I'm very sorry about

Namgul - I'm very sorry about your scratches. That's a great point - and that is why I try to concentrate on photographing fish and other subjects that I don't need full magnification with, when I'm using the macro lens in a dome port. Small subjects in rocky areas are best photographed underwater with a flat port.

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

Ugh, that scares me - I

Ugh, that scares me - I hadn't thought about that. I was thinking about forgoing a flat port for my kit, and just taking my 8" dome on my Ikelite body. I'm trading my 60mm in for a 105mm macro, hopefully that will let me stay farther away and mitigate such risks.

I had both the (Nikon) 60 and

I had both the (Nikon) 60 and 105mm macros. The 105 was terrific for very small critters that were hard to get close to (e.g. pygmy sea horses), but in darker or less clear situations I blew a lot of bubbles positioning and trying to get the 105mm to focus! For larger subjects, the 105mm also requires you to put so much distance between you and the subject that it's very hard to get these without backscatter (at least in the warmer perhaps less clear places I've photographed). I suppose you don't want to hear "don't trade but buy both"... but I really don't think the 105mm is a good replacement for the 60mm. Unless of course you can't have both and want to try your hand at a new style of photography, even if it means giving up certain types of subjects (e.g. fish portraits).

Oh, and yup, it's easy to scratch the dome port with the 60... But it's also easy to scratch the flat port with the 105! Expensive lessons...